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The Net Neutrality Bot

Juan Carlos de Martin is giving an informal talk to a few of us about the Neubot: a Net Neutrality bot, created by NEXA Center for Internet & Society
at Politecnico di Torino.

Neubot is a small piece of software that tests connection speeds, “assesses the quality and neutrality of Internet connections,” and makes the data publicly accessible. The agent runs in the background. It tests by sending and receiving random data. Each test emulates the syntax and behavior of an existing protocol, e.g. HTTP, RTP, or BitTorrent. During the test the agent measures quality of service indicators, such as jitter. The result of a test is a measure of the connection quality to a specific host, with time, day of month, and emulated protocol indicated. Each result also enables a coarse identification of the location, so the results can be organized by city. Before you install, you have to agree that your IP will be in a public database. [All that appears is that an IP address sent some random bits using a particular protocol, so I’m not seeing the privacy implications, but apparently Europe disagrees.] This enables the discerning of patterns that might (might!) indicate ISP discrimination against particular protocols, or hidden bandwidth caps, etc.

[And then I had another meeting and had to leave…]

2 Responses to “The Net Neutrality Bot”

  1. Would the privacy problem be that your carrier, like Verizon or Cablevision, could see the IP, know it is theirs and give you trouble for participating in the program, such as giving you worse service, higher fees, etc? I don’t know, I’m only speculating.

  2. On the one hand, yes, that was raised at the session as the most plausible harm publishing IPs might bring in this case. (Note that punishing uses for running a Net neutrality assessor would be the most extremely ironic violation of Net neutrality imaginable.) On the other, the privacy requirement in this case comes from general EU policies that are (imo) ill-tuned to particular cases and overly cautious about privacy; risks can never be removed and always have to be balanced.

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